Some American English idioms that reference children, including “throw the baby out with the bath water“, sound ludicrous when taken out of context. After all who would throw out a baby in the process of discarding used bath water? The phrase “babe in the woods”, however, speaking to someone’s relative inexperience within a specific area, makes more sense upon further reflection, conjuring up images of a young child lost in the woods who is frightened and unsure where to find comfort. The origin of this idiom has roots in a 1595 ballad that acted as a cautionary tale of sorts similar to the widely believed origins behind Ring Around the Rosie.
Idiom-Babe in the Woods
Definition: A naive or innocent person; an inexperienced person; someone who has not had much experience of life and trusts other people too easily.
Origin: The term ‘babe in the woods’ originated in a popular ballad in 1595, “The Children in the Wood”. The traditional tale speaks of two children who were left with their aunt and uncle after their parents have passed away. In order to acquire the children’s inheritance, their uncle ordered them to be killed, but the murderers fall out unable to go through the act. This led to the two children being left wandering around the woods. Being unable to fend for themselves, the children eventually die and are covered by the robins with some leaves.
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